How Long Can Spider Bite Symptoms Last?

Is It a Spider Bite? Probably Not

Researchers Say Spider Bites Are Overdiagnosed, yet Underappreciated

July 13, 2011 — Spider bites aren’t as common as most people and most doctors think, according to a new analysis.

At the same time, researchers also say poor understanding of truly dangerous spider bites delays treatment when a person really has been bitten by a dangerous spider.

For example, the bite of the brown recluse spider can cause death of a sizeable area of skin (skin necrosis) resulting in a deep, scarring ulcer. Yet even in areas infested with brown recluse spiders, true bites are uncommon.

The analysis is published in the July 14 online issue of The Lancet.

«The treatment of patients with suspected spider bite is not straightforward because of overdiagnosis of skin necrosis as being attributable to spider bites while, at the same time, serious [spider bites] . are not being recognized and treatment is delayed,» write Geoffrey Isbister, MD, of the University of Newcastle, Australia, and Hui Wen Fan, PhD, of Butantan Institute, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Isbister and Fan note that there are more than 41,000 known species of spider, but that very few have bites harmful to humans.

The names of the two U.S. spiders with harmful bites are well known: the black widow and the brown recluse. The two spiders have different venoms:

  • The bite of the black widow may not be very painful at first. Pain onset usually is gradual and usually takes the form of back and belly pain that can last for hours or even days.
  • The bite of the brown recluse (and 12 other recluse spiders in North America) can be mild and just cause a mild, itchy bump. But in severe cases, the bite may be painless at first, but over the next two to eight hours develop a sharp, deep pain followed by a burning feeling. The area around the bite reddens and spreads into a deep ulcer that can be as wide as 16 inches across and can take six to eight weeks to heal.

What about other spiders?

«Many additional spiders . have been implicated,» wrote Mayo Clinic dermatologist David L. Swanson, MD, and University of California spider expert Richard S. Vetter, MS, in a 2006 report. «Unfortunately, most of the implicated spiders have been falsely elevated to a status of medical significance through circumstantial implication and repetitive citation in the medical literature.»

Continued

Spider Bites Rare

Because of the range of symptoms, people often mistake insect bites, chemical burns, allergic reactions, and skin infections for spider bites. But true spider bites are relatively rare, even in households found to be infested with hundreds of brown recluse spiders.

Unless the brown recluse spider is caught in the act, doctors must be willing to challenge the diagnosis of brown recluse spider bite, Swanson and Vetter note.

It’s a different story in South America, where recluse spider bites are a major health problem. But in the U.S., the spider’s range is from the southern Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico. They’ve been found from southeastern Nebraska through southern Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana to southwestern Ohio, extending south from northwestern Georgia to central Texas. Unless transported, they are not found west of the Rockies.

Extensive searches turn up no brown recluse spiders in the southern third of Georgia and in Florida. But that doesn’t stop people from thinking they’ve been bitten by a brown recluse. No recluse species are native to Florida, yet over a six-year period Florida poison control centers received 844 brown recluse bite reports — 15% of them from medical personnel.

In Georgia, researchers asked people to send them their brown recluse spiders. Some 1,060 people sent in spiders they believed to be brown recluses. Only 19 really were. Most turned out to be harmless Southern house spiders, wolf spiders, or orb weavers. The experts who conducted the study went on a field trip to seek out brown recluse spiders in Georgia; they found none. Yet over that period there were hundreds of reported brown recluse bites.

See also:  How Long Is A Spider Pregnant For?

Brown recluse spiders are not rare in many areas of the U.S. In a 2009 report, Vetter and colleagues noted that a family in Lenexa, Kan., collected 2,055 brown recluse spiders over six months in their home. In an Oklahoma barn, spider hunters found 1,150 brown recluses in just three nights.

Even though the brown recluse is a common house spider in several states, bites are relatively uncommon. For example, the four family members in the Lenexa, Kan., house suffered no bites after eight years in the house.

Continued

It’s lucky spider bites are rare, as there’s no definitively proven treatment. While anti-venom exists, there’s no proof it helps — although there’s a long history of safe use, so Isbister and Fan recommend continuing to use it. However, anti-venom probably does not prevent the ulceration and scarring of a severe brown recluse bite.

«Studies are needed to prevent the unnecessary use of ineffective antivenom, which puts patients at risk of allergic reactions,» they suggest.

Sources

Isbister, G. and Fan, H.W. The Lancet, published online July 14, 2011.

Vetter, R.S. Journal of Medical Entomology, January 2009; vol 46: pp 15-20.

Swanson, D.L. and Vetter, R.S. Clinics in Dermatology, 2006; vol 24: pp 213-221.

University of California, Riverside Spiders Site.

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Spider Bites (Common Poisonous) Pictures, Symptoms, Treatment

  • Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

What should you know about spider bites?

Most spiders in the US are harmless. However, black widow and brown recluse spider bites are dangerous, and sometimes life threatening. Black widow and brown recluse spider bites need immediate medical treatment.

What are signs symptoms of spiders that aren’t poisonous?

Spider bites are actually rare occurrences, and most presumed people that have been bitten by spider are likely due to another condition that mimics the symptoms or signs of a spider bite. Bites from most (non-poisonous) spiders cause local redness, irritation, and pain that usually can be treated at home.

What are the symptoms and signs of black widow spider and black recluse spider bites?

Black widow spider bite symptoms are immediate pain, burning, redness, and swelling. Other signs and symptoms of a black widow spider bite are a feeling of a pinprick, and sometimes double fang marks on the person where the spider bit. Often, a person does not know that a black widow spider has bitten them.

Symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite are a mild sting followed by severe pain and local redness that usually develops within eight hours or more after the bite. Some brown recluse spider bites may include a purple or blue area around the bite, which is surrounded by a whitish ring and a large outer ring in a bull’s eye pattern. A fluid blister then forms at the spider bite site, and then sloughs off revealing a deep ulcer that may turn black. Other signs and symptoms of a black widow or brown recluse spider bite may include abdominal or joint pain, fever, nausea, and headache.

See also:  When Should You Go To The Hospital For A Spider Bite?

If you think that, you or someone you know has been bitten by a black widow or brown recluse spider, call 911 or go to the nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Department for treatment.

First Aid for Stings and Bug Bites

First Aid and Home Remedies for Bug Bites and Stings

Most bug bites and stings are harmless, but some can cause debilitating or life threatening diseases. First aid for a minor but bite or sting include:

  • Remove a bee sting using a credit card to scrape it in a side to side motion.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol and others), and topical analgesics to help relieve pain and itching.

Some people are highly allergic to some bug bites and stings, and they can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Some bugs can cause diseases like Lyme disease, which is caused by a tick bite.

What are the first signs and symptoms of spider bites that aren’t not poisonous?

  • Bites from most (non-poisonous) spiders cause local redness, irritation, and pain that usually can be treated at home using an over-the-counterpain reliever along with application of cooling packs or a wet cloth to relieve swelling.
  • These local reactions usually resolve without treatment over a period of 7-10 days. Rarely, an individual can have an allergic reaction to a spider bite, even to a bite from a non-poisonous spider, but allergic reactions are more likely to be due to contact with a spider than from a spider bite.

SLIDESHOW

What are the signs and symptoms of a black widow spider bites (pictures)?

  • A black widow spider bite is said to feel like a pinprick, although victims may not realize that they have been bitten.
  • Sometimes double fang marks may be seen at the location of the bite.
  • The most common localized symptoms of a black widow spider bite include
    • immediate pain,
    • burning,
    • swelling, and
    • redness around the bite.

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What are the signs and symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite (pictures)?

The bite of a brown recluse spider leads to a mild stinging, followed by local redness and severe pain that usually develops within eight hours but may occur later. Some reports of brown recluse bites describe a blue or purple area around the bite, surrounded by a whitish ring and large red outer ring in a «bull’s eye» pattern. A fluid-filled blister forms at the site and then sloughs off to reveal a deep ulcer that may turn black.

IMAGES

Can black widow or brown recluse spider bite symptoms be the same?

Generalized symptoms of bites from black widow and brown recluse spiders may include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain or stiffness
  • Feelings of malaise
  • Rash
  • Muscle tension or cramping

Rarely, black widow spider bites are fatal; however, a few individuals have died from brown recluse spider bites, which are more common in children than in adults.

If a spider was not observed inflicting the bite, it is difficult if not impossible to determine whether a spider bite occurred, since many conditions of the skin may produce the same symptoms as a spider bite. Streptococcal and Staphylococcal infections, early lesions of herpes simplex or zoster, burns, stings or bites from other arthropods or insects (including fleas, bedbugs, mosquitos, biting flies, ants, and ticks), thorn injury, and early Lyme disease all may be characterized by skin findings similar to those from a spider bite.

Spiders rarely bite people, and only if threatened. People often thing they have spider bites when the irritation is from another cause.

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Are spider bites dangerous?

Most spiders do not have mouth parts strong enough to penetrate human skin, and the majority of spiders found in the U.S. and are actually harmless. There are two notable exceptions, the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider, which are both dangerous to humans. Spider bites are fortunately uncommon. In many cases, presumed spider bites are actually due to another skin condition or an insect sting.

See also:  10 Biggest Spiders In The World

The black widow and brown recluse spiders are more common in the southern states of the U.S. They prefer warm, dry climates and undisturbed areas such as basements, closets, woodpiles, attics, or under sinks. The black widow spider is a small, black, shiny spider with a red hourglass marking on its belly. The brown recluse spider is sometimes termed a «violin spider.» It is about an inch long and has a marking resembling a violin on the upper part of its back. Bites from both the black widow and brown recluse spiders are dangerous to humans and require prompt emergency medical care.

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What should you do if a spider bites you?

  • Wash the site of the spider bite well with soap and water.
  • Apply a cool compress or ice pack over the spider bite location.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers may be used to relieve symptoms. (Remember, not to give aspirin to children; use acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead).
  • Call the doctor or seek emergency treatment if the victim is a young child, if you think the bite may have been from a black widow or brown recluse spider, if any signs of an allergic reaction occur, if the bite area becomes infected, or if the victim develops a rash or severe illness.
  • If possible, retrieve the spider and bring it with you to the health care practitioner so that it can be definitively identified.
  • A tetanus booster shot may be necessary, depending upon the date of the patient’s last immunization.

What should you do if a black widow or brown recluse spider bites you?

  • Wash the bite area with soap and water.
  • Elevate the area to prevent spread of the venom.
  • Tie a snug bandage above the area (if on an arm or leg) to further reduce spread of the venom, but do not make the bandage too tight that it impairs the blood circulation.
  • Always seek immediate emergency medical care. An anti-venom medication is sometimes given for black widow spider bites. Doctors’ use different types of medications to treat spider bites, including pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and/or corticosteroids. Sometimes hospitalization is required after black widow or brown recluse spider bites.
  • If possible, retrieve the spider and bring it with you to the health care practitioner so that it can be definitively identified.
  • A tetanus booster shot may be necessary, depending upon the date of the patient’s last immunization.
  • Calling the Poison Control Center (24-hour hotline at 1-800-222-1222 in the U.S.) allows you to reach toxicology experts who can work with a health care provider in establishing the proper diagnosis and management of a spider bite.

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Some causes of nausea and vomiting may be life threatening, for example, heart attack, abdominal obstruction, and cancers.

Treatment of nausea and vomiting depends upon the cause.

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Staphylococcus or staph is a group of bacteria that can cause a multitude of diseases. Staph infections can cause illness directly by infection or indirectly by the toxins they produce. Symptoms and signs of a staph infection include redness, swelling, pain, and drainage of pus. Minor skin infections are treated with an antibiotic ointment, while more serious infections are treated with intravenous antibiotics.

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